The Rundown: Cubs Grab Another Road Win, Darvish Dominant, El Mago Breaks Out, Celebrating 1969 in Gotham

I said it on social media on Sunday and caught quite a bit of flak from Nationals fans, but I’m going to repeat it here: The Cubs are going to be baseball’s hottest team in September. And though we are still clinging to the last days of August and the end of meteorological summer, the North Siders started their three game road trip with a nice win over the Mets.

That’s a three game winning streak away from Wrigley Field if you’re keen on tracking the Cubs’ road exploits.

Where have you been Javier Báez?

El Mago has been slumping lately but he broke out in a big way last night. His 29th home run of the year was also his 14th to the opposite field, which leads the National League. Aside from a few baserunning blunders, Báez was nearly perfect last night.

Last night’s win allowed the Cubs to keep pace with the Cardinals, who remain three games ahead of Chicago in the NL Central after beating the Brewers again last night. Baez’s three extra-base hits — including the home run — fueled the Cubs’ win.

But the real star was Yu Darvish, whose performances continue to grow louder and louder for all the right reasons. He’s easily become the team’s most consistent pitcher and if the Cubs have to go to Washington to play a Wild Card game, I hope he starts. Darvish saw his streak of not walking a batter end at 142 when Todd Frazier drew a free pass in the 5th inning.

“Sad about the walk,” Darvish said after the game. “Four-pitch walk. I tried to throw a strike, but I couldn’t throw a strike. So I feel like, embarrassed.”

“Stuff wasn’t sharp enough. Just game plan and pitch selection was — for me — perfect.”

Unbelievably, Darvish improved to just 5-6 on the season with a whopping 16 no decisions. I suppose you can say he has been good enough to give his team an opportunity to win almost every time he takes the mound, and, despite the record, has been dominant more often than not.  After starting the season with troubling command issues, the big right-hander now boasts 183 strikeouts against just 52 walks. Darvish has not walked more than three batters in any start since May 9.

The Cubs may have caught the Mets at just the right time. New York has now lost four straight and trails the Cubs by three games in the Wild Card race. It would be nice to clinch the series with another big win tonight.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

It looks like the Royals may be sold soon. Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark of The Athletic have a reported that David Glass, who has owned the franchise since 2000, is discussing the possibility of selling the team ($) to a group headed up by John Sherman, originally from Kansas City and current vice chairman of the Indians.

Aaron Judge is the third-fastest player to reach 100 home runs in MLB history.

Dodgers’ catcher Russell Martin is the first position player in the history of the game to pitch in his team’s shutout victory. He did not qualify for the save, in case you were wondering.

The red-hot Cardinals have a three-game cushion over the Cubs for first place in the NL Central. Here’s how they did it.

Justin Verlander was dominant against the Rays last night, yet still somehow managed to get ejected from the game in the 6th inning of the Astros’ 15-1 win.

This is just a devastatingly heartbreaking story for Rays’ prospect Blake Bivens.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Walker Buehler – The Dodgers’ left-hander has been dominant against the Padres in his career and last night was no exception. Buehler pitched six shutout innings of four-hit baseball and punched 11 tickets as Los Angeles improved to a season-best 40 games over .500 at 87-47.
  2. Pete Alonso – Breaking an 81-year-old record is a hell of an accomplishment. Alonso has the NL Rookie of the Year Award sewn up and though I loath the Mets, I’d like to see him win MVP, too. I believe he is the favorite. I’m all full of predictions today, aren’t I?
  3. Javier Báez – Good to have you back, El Mago. Let’s tighten it up on the basepaths, though.

Extra Innings

I saw on one of Evan’s posts that a reader asked what was so special about the 1969 Cubs. I was just a kid, but until that season the Cubs had spent about two decades being one of the worst teams in baseball. Wrigley Field was like a ghost town, and though the Cubs had some great players, they had never really known what it was like to win until ’69.

And believe it or not, the White Sox were the dominant team in town, both in ability and Chicago fanaticism. It was my first season as a Cubs fan (I was just shy of my sixth birthday when my dad took me to my first game), and the season serves as ground zero for what it’s like to be a Cubs fan today.

Yes, they stumbled badly in August and September and lost to a team that got incredibly hot over the last two months of the season. The 2015 Cubs serve as a nice comp for that squad. In fact, and I said this before the season started, this year’s squad feels an awful lot like the 1971 team to me. I fear the results may be similar: a good but not great season, a couple of players with outstanding performances, and sadly nothing to show for it. As I mentioned above, however, I do believe the Cubs are going to have a spectacular September.

They Said It

  • “Never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” – Joe Maddon
  • “The standings have changed quite a bit the last 2 ½ weeks. We’re not on the side of it we want to be at any more, so they all become big games. It’s been fits and starts. We’ve played really good baseball at home for the most part and it’s been not quite as inspired on the road. We’ve been waiting to put it all together and be the best version of ourselves. I think we all know in this clubhouse that has to happen really soon for us to get where we want to go. It’s that time of year.” – Theo Epstein
  • “I never saw anything like it in my life. Our offense went down the toilet, the defense went down the drain and I’m still looking for the pitching staff. I could have dressed nine broads up as ballplayers and they would have beaten the Cubs.” – Leo Durocher on the ’69 Cubs

Wednesday Walk Off Song

Back in Black by AC/DC. Forget the hearse ‘cuz I’ll never die. These Cubs are about to go on an extended run. I have no quantifiable evidence to make such a bold (and possibly preposterous) prediction. I just kinda feel that their time is right now.

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